When we leave our children in the hands of a sitter, we typically go through a checklist of items, to ensure we are all on the same page. Some examples may include discussing bedtime routines, going over any necessary medications, emergency contact information, how late we might be out, etc. We rarely think about social media and how it affects our sitter and more importantly, our child.
A while back, a sitter of mine texted me an adorable picture of my son while I was out at a meeting, which I greatly appreciated. I noticed the picture was posted from Instagram and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I post pictures of my kids on Facebook all the time, but knowing someone else can easily share my children with the social media world, especially without my permission, is a bit unsettling. Who are the sitter’s followers? Is she giving out his personal information, such as his name and age? Who thought along with bedtime instructions, I would have to mention refraining from posting pictures on social media.
Recently a girlfriend of mine reached out to me because something similar happened to her, and she wasn’t sure how to handle it. We talked about how it is very necessary to bring up the topic of taking and posting pictures with those who are watching our precious children. To them, especially if they were born in the 90′s, cell phones and social media are a huge part of their life. To us, the parents, this technology is something we did not grow up with and survived without. I told my girlfriend that if this topic was something of concern to her, especially if there was already an incident, she needs to let her sitter know how she feels right away.
I would think that caretakers would know to ask a parent’s permission before posting a picture of a child they are watching, but it often doesn’t come up until it’s too late. I did actually have one babysitter who asked me if it was okay, which was very impressive, although not surprising, since she is so responsible and always thinks ahead. Unfortunately, not all sitters think this way. These are the times we are living in and social media can be a scary place when it comes to our children. I posted a picture of my boys on their first day of school and it ended up getting re-posted by a total stranger living in India with the caption, “Oh how I miss school”. I was puzzled, upset and frightened to learn this. It was eventually taken down from her account but it makes me wonder how strangers have access to something so personal and if it’s so personal, why do we feel it’s acceptable to share it with our “friends” on the internet?
Here are some tips to start the conversation with your child’s caretaker:
Don’t beat around the bush:
Get right to the point and share your feelings in a non threatening manner.
Let your sitter know that she is not allowed to post or share pictures of your child on social media.
Understand this concept of banning social media may be foreign to someone of your sitter’s generation:
Explain that you are not aware of whom your sitter’s friends are on social media and are uncomfortable with her sharing your child’s images with these people.
She may have the best intentions:
If your sitter likes to take pictures of your child so you don’t miss anything, or update you throughout the day, let her know you appreciate the gesture.
You may decide she can take pictures and send them only to you via text/e-mail.
You may decide you do not want any pictures of your child on her phone and prefer to have her use your camera instead.
What you consider to be inappropriate images of your child may not be your sitter’s definition, so make her aware of what those guidelines are.
Knowledge comes with age and your sitter may think a cute picture of your one year old’s tushie is adorable, but it can bring negative consequences to you as the parent, and your child.
Trust your sitter:
If you cannot trust your sitter to follow these rules, then you should consider finding a new one.
Checking your sitter’s phone is not an option and a violation of her privacy, so if the thought does cross your mind, it’s time to get a new sitter.
Ask your children:
If your children are old enough, utilize them as a resource.
Simply ask them if the sitter took any pictures of them.
What if she questions you about why it is okay for you to post pictures on social media?
Instead of getting defensive, take a deep breath and realize she may be confused and a simple explanation will help her understand your fears.
You are the parent and are paying her to care for your child, not spend time on her phone.
Explain that you choose your own social media followers while you are unaware of whom hers are.
Let her know that you are sharing images of your child so friends and family can view, while there is no need for her to share with her circle.
If she continues to question you, let her know these are your rules, you hope she understands, and you do not need to provide her with any further explanation or justification as you are the parent.
We cannot assume that all babysitters understand the dangers of social media. Parents, we need to bring up this subject matter during our interviewing and hiring process. We need to keep up with the times and also have a conversation with our current sitters who we have known and trusted for years.
At the end of the day, we want our children to be safe and there are times we can’t always be there to ensure that happens. The technology available to us today is pretty amazing but it also has its’ dangers. Communication is key, and when it comes to someone else watching your child, it’s important to share your feelings about a particular topic that may be causing you stress and concern. Remember that this is your child which means your rules.